On November 7, 2016, B.A.P made their fall comeback with their second full-length album, Noir. The album, produced in part by Bang Yongguk who is on hiatus due to a panic disorder, focuses on B.A.P’s growth as artists. The album still has some of their signature sound, but there are smoother performances that highlight their maturity better than previous efforts. The album has been performing well internationally as it landed at number one on Billboard’s world album charts and appeared on the iTunes charts. Recently, the lead single, “Skydive,” won first place on The Show. With so many accolades, it appears B.A.P have another hit on their hands even if domestic audiences haven’t taken much notice.
The album kicks off with the introductory song “Le Noir.” The smooth, jazzy song helps set the mood for the album. Its tone sets the stage for a smoky lounge feel that’s dark and quiet. Vocals are soft and peaceful to invite listeners to listen closely. The brilliant softness creates a relaxing atmosphere before erupting into the harder-hitting “Skydive.”
“Skydive” features strong beats, great harmonies, and well-executed arrangements. Himchan and Daehyun’s opening lines stir excitement. There’s a solid mix of rap and vocals, so both the rap and vocal-lines have a chance to shine. While some take issue with the repetitive nature of “Skydive’s” lyrics, the song is about taking chances (“throw your body, it’s do or die, skydive, freefall”), so the repetition can be interpreted as an inner voice reminding the listener to act boldly. Jongup and Youngjae shine in their lines to add depth to the already strong single.
Track three is “Ribbon in the Sky.” Netizens view the song as a social commentary piece about the Sewol Ferry Tragedy and media and government corruption. The lyrics seemingly point to this being the case. B.A.P have a history of creating social commentary songs, so it’s not a surprise that this song does cover themes of corruption. The song has an old-school feel with some rich vocals that enhance the sound. At times, the higher notes feel out of the members’ range, but it comes together well enough to where it’s barely noticeable to the untrained ear. The background sections—the humming, hand-clapping, and “whoa” lines—make the song more interesting to hear as these elements add different layers to a song that’s one of the strongest songs on the album.
“Killer” is next and makes use of the vocal-line’s strengths. Youngjae, Daehyun, and Himchan shine with clear lines and improved English skills. Daehyun has a more refined sound due to better control and technique, while Himchan’s vocals add some much needed depth. The song has a bright beat that follows through from beginning to end. “Killer” truly highlights some of B.A.P’s stronger finesse.
Another highlight song is “Fermata.” Fermata is Italian for an “unspecified pause or rest on a musical note.” The smooth, slow track has a fitting title given the song’s cadence. The vocal line-only (Himchan, Jongup, Youngjae, and Daehyun) track has hints of R&B with lovely high notes and a relaxing beat. For anyone who doubted Himchan’s vocal ability, you need to hear this song because his tone is on-point, rich, and pretty. The only issue with “Fermata” is that Youngjae slurs some of his lyrics, so it’s not as strongly refined as other songs on Noir. With that aside, the vocal line proves their strong capabilities.
“Confession” (“Pray”) is track six and the album’s standout song. Prior to the album’s release, several B.A.P fansites indicated the song is about depression and suicide. The lyrics dark tones definitely point to this being the case. The rap-line—Yongguk and Zelo—take the reins. The opening seconds of the song are impressive with the choir chants, making the song sound heavy and epic. Zelo’s deeper vocals and a stronger ability to expand his range show how much he’s grown. Yongguk’s deep rap is rich with emotion and helps paint the lyrics’ image. The song has sharp edges that help the lyrics cut into the listener’s soul. “Confession” is the one song that’s guaranteed to stick with listeners for a long time.
“I Guess I Need U” sports nice melodies and falsettos. The chorus has pleasant harmonies that bring out some of the familiar sounds fans expect out of a mid-tempo B.A.P song. The song has an adult-contemporary feel that’s perfect for easy listening and may appeal to older fans. However, the song’s “whoa, whoa, whoa” parts feel out of place (sorry, Yongguk) and there only for filler.
“Chiquita” is track eight. The song is a quirky dance track that shows off B.A.P’s fun side. The beat has some Latin flair that makes the song fun for summer. While the track is bright with an ability to make listeners groove, the pronunciation of “Chiquita” is glaring because it’s elongated and pronounced like “she-key-da” (ʃikidɑ) to fit the meter; if it was pronounced correctly (t͡ʃiˈkit̪a), the chorus would have been thrown off, but it’s still glaring.
“Walk” is another calm track that has twinges of warmth to its composition. This is another song where the vocal-line shines. The song’s arrangement and composition are pure perfection as there is a lot of beauty within each note. Daehyun’s “baby you” in the chorus shows nice control and technique as his voice slides up and down the scale. It’s easy to play this song repeatedly.
One of the surprises on Noir is the inclusion of Jongup’s “Now.” During LOE 2016 Awake, Jongup performed his self-composed song that quickly became a fan-favorite. Jongup has a solid voice for solo work because it’s pleasant and sweet. Zelo’s rap also has hints of softness to make “Now” have a heavenly quality to it.
The Korean version of “Kingdom” also makes an appearance on the album. For LOE 2016 attendees, the song’s addition is welcome. Himchan’s intro is still perfect as his English is much clearer. The Korean version is still just as catching as the Japanese version, but it’s a shame the song wasn’t promoted in Korea. The song is still a fan-favorite, and its inclusion is proof that B.A.P do listen to what fans want since the Korean version was in-demand since the tour.
The album wraps up with the instrumental versions of “Fermata” and “Skydive.”
The album as a whole shows off B.A.P’s depth and range. They’ve mentioned often how they would like to try different genres, and their abilities to do so are showcased here. Since the lawsuit, B.A.P have had more control over their music and their efforts shine. Even though there are a few nagging elements, Noir is one of their best efforts. The album earns a 4/5.